Are the Soul and Spirit Eternal?

Are the Soul and Spirit Eternal?

There’s an ongoing debate among Christians as to the immortality of the soul and spirit. Are the soul and spirit eternal? Do they become extinct upon death?

The Bible teaches that man is made up of material (body) and immaterial (soul and spirit) components. Life begins when they are united and life ends when they are separated.

Is the Soul Immortal?

Both the Old and New Testaments teach that humans have an immaterial part that will last forever. Thus, we should not see life and death as existence and non-existence. As Dr. Frank Turek often says, “When we die, we don’t cease to exist; we simply change location.”

Death is a transition to a different mode of existence. Therefore, life and death should be viewed as two different states or existence.

Death means Separation of the Body from the Soul and Spirit

What the Old Testament Teaches

The foundational biblical teaching on the subject of the immortality of the soul is the Old Testament.

When Adam sinned against the Lord, it was his body that was judged to go back to its original elements (Genesis 3:19). Adam’s spirit, however, was not judged to return to dust because it was breathed by God into him. Adam’s body became dust but his spirit went elsewhere.

The Bible never teaches that the spirit can be annihilated or become extinct at death.

We read in Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV) that humans have been made for all eternity. Our soul and spirit will live forever; death is not the end.

Scriptures make a distinction between the body and the spirit and it implies a continual life of the spirit after the body dies (Ecclesiastes 12:7, ESV). In effect, the spirit will continue to exist but the body does not.

In addition, Isaiah 14:9 (NIV) speaks of Sheol – a place where the dead exists; not utterly annihilated. So, there is an actual place where the dead will reside and do not go out of existence.

Not Everyone Died

Two Old Testament characters did not die but rather went to heaven without dying; Enoch and Elijah.

Genesis 5:24 says this about Enoch, “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” Of Elijah, 2 Kings 2:11 tells us, “… suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”

Since Enoch and Elijah did not die, what happened to their bodies? Where did they go? We can’t tell for sure but one thing is certain, there is existence beyond the grave. The immaterial part of humans is not destroyed; it survives beyond this life.

Affiliate
Strengthen your faith with Christian jewelry, apparel, and wall decors.

What the New Testament Teaches

Like the Old Testament, the New Testament also has much to say about those who have died. For one, Jesus promises eternal life to those who put their faith in Him.

In a conversation between Jesus and Martha recorded in John 11:25-26, we read the following:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

We see that Jesus is speaking of life after life. He couldn’t be talking about physical death when He said those who believe in him shall never die. Everyone dies, for sure! Yet, there is a part of each of us that will never die.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

Likewise, in His dialogue with the Sadducees, Jesus spoke of the existence of those who had previously died. Matthew 22:31-32 records Jesus saying these:

“But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have long been dead when God spoke to Moses. But God said to him, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” God did not say, “I was their God.”

Jesus was saying that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were still living though they had died physically. Their physical death did not end their existence. This is an early biblical reference to the fact that the dead do not go out of existence. The body dies but the soul and spirit live on.

I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

Moses and Elijah

When Jesus appeared at the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared with Him. Matthew 17:13 records the following.

“And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.”

This gives further testimony to life after death. Moses had been dead for over a thousand years. Elijah had been taken up in a whirlwind to the presence of the Lord hundreds of years earlier. Yet here they were with Jesus.

Obviously, they survived beyond the grave.

Everyone Will be Judged

In John 5:28-29, Jesus spoke of a judgment of the human race.

“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”

If the dead are going to be judged when the graves are opened, then obviously life does not end with physical death. There must be some type of existence beyond the grave if the human race is going to be judged.

Annihilation of the Soul and Spirit

There is a popular teaching among some Christian denominations that the wicked will not suffer eternal torment. Instead, they will be annihilated and will cease to exist.

However, the Scriptures teach that the soul and spirit cannot be annihilated. While the body will die, the soul and spirit will live on. Thus, death is not the end of conscious life. Death is the separation of the body and spirit.

The body returns to dust where it came from and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The body is just the temporary residence of humans (2 Corinthians 5:1).

Jewelries
Strengthen your faith with Christian jewelry, apparel, and wall decors.

Jesus also made a very powerful statement in Matthew 10:28.

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

The word “destroy” has the idea of punishment, not annihilation. The destruction of the soul means separation from the life of God. Although living, the soul of the unbeliever has no connection to God whatsoever.

The Souls Under the Altar

The book of Revelation speaks of the souls of the dead under the altar.

“When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held” (Revelation 6:9).

These people still existed after their physical death. This is a further indication that physical death does not end our existence. We will live on after death, all of us.

The Second Death

There is a second death mentioned in the book of Revelation. If death were the end of existence, then why does the Bible speak of the second death of unbelievers?

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” (Revelation 2:11).

But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

The idea of a second death for unbelievers is another indication that physical death is not the end of existence. A second death assumes there will be a “first death.” Therefore, there can be another death after physical death.

The Immortality of the Soul and Spirit

Nothing Can Separate Us from God

Finally, the Word of God says that nothing will separate the believer from the love of God, not even death.

In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul wrote (Romans 8:38-39, NLT):

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Nothing means nothing! Not even death! The believer cannot be separated from God. Not now, not ever. Nothing can keep us apart. Therefore, from the totality of Scripture, it is clear that the immaterial part of us, the spirit or soul, survives death.

Conclusion

While death may end our relationships and plans here upon the earth, it is not the end of us. Death is never seen as extinction, nonexistence, or annihilation. Indeed, it is always separation.

Therefore, physical death is the separation of the spirit or soul from the human body. The spirit or soul can never be destroyed. It will live on for all eternity. The body lies in the grave but the spirit lives on.

This is the message of Scripture from the first page to the last!


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Note: This article is an excerpt from the book “Living in the Light of Eternity” by Don Stewart.

In this first of a five-volume series, best-selling and award-winning author, Don Stewart, explains the all-important subjects of death, dying, and the afterlife in easy to understand language.

Don will answer such questions:

  • Why is there death and suffering?
  • What sin will keep people out of heaven?
  • What about claims of people who say they have died and gone to heaven or hell?
  • What hope does God’s Word give for the dead?
  • Burial or cremation?
  • What does the Bible say about suicide?

2 Replies to “Are the Soul and Spirit Eternal?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *